A United Launch Alliance Delta IV lifts off from Space Launch Complex-37 with the Air Force’s Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF-5 satellite. This launch marked the 25th Delta IV flight since the first flight in 2002.
The latest GPS Block IIF satellite, IIF-5 or SVN64 (operating as PRN30), was launched on February 21, 2014. Typically, GPS satellites are checked out and made operational within about a month following launch. SVN64 has yet to be set healthy.
The delay is due to an extended navigation test being performed by the GPS master control station. A navigation upload for SVN64 was performed in March with ephemeris and clock data as usual streching weeks in advance. However, unlike with operational satellites, no further updated uploads have been performed. The aging ephermis and clock data gradually becomes less and less accurate as time goes by but should degrade gracefully.
Inquisitive observers will have noticed that the received navigation data from SNV64 changes infrequently. Currently, the navigation data changes once per day with an epoch of 13:00 GPS Time unlike every two hours with operational satellites. And the data fit interval is 26 hours, compared to four hours.
The test is scheduled to run until mid-May.
Richard B. Langley is a professor in the Department of Geodesy and Geomatics Engineering at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) in Fredericton, Canada, where he has been teaching and conducting research since 1981. He has a B.Sc. in applied physics from the University of Waterloo and a Ph.D. in experimental space science from York University, Toronto. He spent two years at MIT as a postdoctoral fellow, researching geodetic applications of lunar laser ranging and VLBI. For work in VLBI, he shared two NASA Group Achievement Awards.
Professor Langley has worked extensively with the Global Positioning System. He has been active in the development of GPS error models since the early 1980s and is a co-author of the venerable “Guide to GPS Positioning” and a columnist and contributing editor of GPS World magazine. His research team is currently working on a number of GPS-related projects, including the study of atmospheric effects on wide-area augmentation systems, the adaptation of techniques for spaceborne GPS, and the development of GPS-based systems for machine control and deformation monitoring. Professor Langley is a collaborator in UNB’s Canadian High Arctic Ionospheric Network project and is the principal investigator for the GPS instrument on the Canadian CASSIOPE research satellite now in orbit.
Professor Langley is a fellow of The Institute of Navigation (ION), the Royal Institute of Navigation, and the International Association of Geodesy. He shared the ION 2003 Burka Award with Don Kim and received the ION’s Johannes Kepler Award in 2007.